Shard of Thrashkil

They say every shard is cursed, but maybe this one, this time, it isn’t…

DESCRIPTION

Thrashkil was forged in the before time – when the world was but one Bridge united and unified under one banner, one great house. Just as the shattering began, the mighty axe Thrashkil was forged for the giant Protule. Queen Protule attempted to keep the house together, but it was not meant to be, and with the finally sundering of the one true Bridge, so too was the mighty axe torn apart, shards of its gleaming purple-blue axehead strewn across the world and Bridges as creation spewed forth and mortals entered the world.

Or that’s what I heard, that’s the legend, and how it goes. I’ve carried the damned thing everywhere since my father gave it to, and when I die, it goes to my daughter, and to her children after her. They say they’re cursed, but it’s always seemed to bring luck to me and mine…

RULES

Whoever shall possess a Shard of Thrashkil shall risk the wrath or favor of the dead giantess queen Protule. At the beginning of each day, the GM flips a coin in secret. Heads – the Shard provides a blessing. Tales – the Shard provides a curse. The GM should note this in secret and announce to the table that Protule has made her silent judgment. This judgment is only determined and applied once each day no matter how many shards a character possesses.

When the PC possessing a Shard makes their first attribute roll that day, apply Protule’s judgment. If it’s a blessing, the roll gains Advantage. If it’s a curse, the rolls gains Disadvantage.

There are 16 shards of Thrashkill, one in each of the four Bridges and 8 in the world of mortals. Once all 16 have been collected, it is possible to begin the quest to reconstruct Thrashkill, resurrect Protule, and bring about the reunification of the bridges. Only once the bridges have been reunified can The Wall be brought down, freeing all souls to transition to the Great Sea.

A Shard cannot be used to forge anything else, and is generally unaffected by any means to do so.

DESIGN NOTES

What’s a little piece of metal gonna do in your campaign – lead to the apocalypse? Perhaps! I’ve been painting the frost giant from Steamforged Games’ Epic Encounters line. Not only is this “miniatures” literally gigantic, gorgeous, and a ton of fun to paint, but it’s really inspiring my love of giants in general.

So that’s the beauty of a homebrewed world – only just recently am I introducing giants, and because I now have giants, it inspired me to write a bit of the creation myth. And what good’s a creation myth if it doesn’t help us understand the end of the world?

A Shard of Thrashkil is a very simple thing. It’s a flip of the coin to change one roll each day. However it opens up potentially 15 (15!) side quests and can be a constant background feature for your campaign.

Will we see the Axe itself written up in the future? Time will tell…

Aberrant Leather Buckler

Yeah, the leather’s a fashion statement, but the METAL… Forget about it!

DESCRIPTION

Small metal sheild, most commonly made of iron but just as likely to be made from metals most associated with the Bridge from which the leather was harvested. Rather than a smooth circle, these bucklers tend to favor severe edges and hooks to allow their users to utilize the agility advantage a buckler provides over a more traditional shield.

The leather that is sewn into the framework of the shield provides various benefits to it welder tied once again to the Bridge from which it was harvested. Sometimes these bucklers are named after the aberrant that provided its hide for the leather, there are even known to be several sets of bucklers from a single, larger aberrant, and when bringing them together can result in surprising effects – sometimes the power of the buckler is multiplied and others it is replaced entirely.

The appearance of the buckler also depends on the Bridge that spawned the aberrant. For example, a Buckler of an Aberrant of Stone gives off a more scaled, reptilian appearance to reflect the most common types of creatures found there whereas a Buckler of an Aberrant of Wind might have scales or feathers to reflect the fauna found there.

RULES

The GM may roll 1d4 on the table below to determine the origin of the Aberrant leather. This determines the appearance and ability of the item. The buckler provides no inherent defensive capabilities to match those of a mundane buckler or shield. Instead, the item has Ud4 charges per day of its listed power.

Source of Aberrant/Appearance/Ability
1 – Flames – Burnt, blackened fur/Advantage to Remember a Spell or Prayer.
2 – Stones – Reptilian, grey and craggy/Advantage to STR to defend an attack.
3 – Trees – Feathered, bright and vibrant/Advantage to DEF to defend an attack.
4 – Winds – Scales, shiny blue and green/Extra use of Background.
Roll 1d4.

When an Aberrant Buckler has no more charges, it may be used one final time to avoid all damage from one attack. If it is used in such a manner, it is completely destroyed. On a 50/50 chance, the character welding it when it’s destroyed gains the ability of the buckler and the arm it was one taking on the appearance of the leather before it was destroyed.

Under no circumstances can the buckler be repaired either way.

DESIGN NOTES

Random effect buckler! Today I’m showing off once more a feature of my setting and also providing a nice, low level magical item which is actually four potential items in one.

As I’ve mentioned before, Bridges are where magic comes from in my setting. They’re parallel realities where souls go after the body dies, and the souls walk the land until they find The Wall (it’s a whole thing I’m not going into at this time). Some souls take too long and start to… go bad. If you’ve seen Pixar’s Soul, it’s actually not too far off from that, oddly enough.

These souls break back into our reality and present as horrific monsters – it’s one of the main monster generators of my setting. These monsters are called Aberrants, and they appear in settings appropriate to their Bridge in places where the veil is thinner. For example, an Aberrant from the Bridge of Winds (a realm that’s one large ocean) appear as sea monsters in great depths in the real world.

So if you kill one of these things, their skin still carries a charge, and someone had the bright idea of utilizing it for magical item creation.

And now you’re caught up to why it’s important which realm the leather comes from!

I recommend not telling players about the sacrificial nature of the buckler but rather allow them to discover it on their own. Should make for a fun surprise that makes it worth it potentially to lose their shield!

SPLIT THE PARTY – Desert Island Books

Spoilers: I’m probably going to post this book cover multiple times on this blog…

I started a discussion thread this past week over at RPG.net where I posed a question to the community asking which physical books they’d save if their RPG library was on fire and there was only time/capacity to grab five books from their collection. Besides the expected (but honestly pretty tired) jokes about “I’d grab my Kindle!” or other lame workarounds to the premise of my post, I saw some really interesting approaches on various forum member lists.

Some valued physical value/rarity, some valued utility or beauty – looking for toolkits or inspiration, and some valued a well-rounded collection to reflect their various interests in hobby and rules design philosophy. At least one member just picked five of the White Wolf 20th anniversary editions of World of Darkness games (not a bad choice as these books are thicc with a capital CC!).

I didn’t have an answer for my picks when I submitted the question, but I took some time and mulled it over to come up with a list. Looking through my own collection, I was actually surprised by how few books I’ve hung on to and would consider essentials. I dove deeply into OSR books this past year, and while I like them, there are very few I would consider essential.

I ended up going the well-rounded cover my bases approach to my list with at least one nostalgia pick. If you’ve been reading my blog, as short a time it’s been around for, these probably shouldn’t surprise you too much. The following are in no particular order.

The Black Hack, 2nd Edition – With this I could run any OSR product, entire dungeons, and generate all the material I could need or find inspiration/tools to help me generate further material for any D&D-like setting. If I could only pick one book, this would be it. It should come as no surprise since I’ve adopted this rule set as the way for me to write rules up for my original items on OSArmory.

Monster of the Week – I love this game, and I love Powered by the Apocalypse games too – this was the one that won out for me. It covers a very different genre both mechanically and setting-wise than The Black Hack, and between these two books I could run tons and tons of different kinds of adventures and campaigns. So far it looks like tool kits are my favored books.

Age of Rebellion – And now we’ve covered the third major genre I like to play or run – space opera. Honestly I would take any of the three Star Wars FFG core books, but if I’m going to run one of the three types of stories, it’s going to be more military/rebellion focused than the other two. I’ve run several sessions using the official rule set, but if I ever run something Star Wars again, it’ll be from either OSR or PBTA approaches above. Even with that being true, I think Age of Rebellion would help me with planning and executing a great Star Wars game.

Legacy: Life Among the Ruins 2nd Edition – This is another PBTA game, sure, but it does things that others in the family don’t, and I love the zooming-in/zooming-out of character and organizational-level play. This was a close toss up between Legacy and Band of Blades, but ultimately BoB is a little too focused in the story it’s telling (not a bad thing generally, but hard to include in a list like this) whereas Legacy gives me a lot more options.

Dread – This is an odd choice. I don’t need the book whatsoever to run this game, but it was my first RPG and what got me into it all in the first place. I would grab it simply out of nostalgia and not being able to give up owning a copy. It does provide me with great ideas and inspiration for horror games though, so reading through the various chapters focusing on different subgenres of horror would be pretty useful.

There’s my five. I’m really hoping this year to find a book or two that could push out some from this list – always a good thing to be discovering new, exciting games. Dune, for example, would certainly have the potential depending on how well it works in practice versus just reading and looking at all the art. I also just picked up Warhammer Age of Sigmar Soulbound on order from NobleKnight.com, and I’ve only been hearing good things about it, so we’ll see how that works out.

I’d love to read more people’s list of desert island books!

1d6 Things Found in a Perfectly-Sealed Iron Box

Obligatory WHAT’S IN THE BOX? Pun Here

DESCRIPTION

A small box, about 2 feet cubed, made of pitted pig iron – seemingly of six separate plates of metal somehow fused together – melted in heat unimaginable at each seam where two plates meet. The metal itself is pitted and crude, yet solid, hard enough to resist an axe chopping away. Brute force is unlikely to be the means with which to open such a thing…

Perhaps it was found buried under an old abandoned wagon just off a road or was discovered deep in an underground system of tunnels, sitting on a throne made of obsidian. Maybe it’s available to purchase in the back of a shop known mostly for selling fine statuettes of flowers only found in foreign lands.

Regardless, the box itself is hollow, and some reports have been made that something is in fact inside the box, rattling sometimes when the box is shaken or sometimes rattling all by itself with no one holding it at all.

RULES

The GM should roll 1d6 on the table below at the beginning of each session where the box exists in game, specifically in the possession of the party or a notable NPC and the players are aware the box exists. The contents of the box should change accordingly based on what is rolled below.

  • 1: The inside of the box is empty if opened, runes of an unknown origin have been drawn on the inside of it, and forcing the box opened, breaks the seal by breaking the runes. Whatever it was inside has been freed if the box is opened.
  • 2: A baby, alive and well, and seemingly impervious to harm. Her skin has a golden hue, and she doesn’t appear to have any need to eat or drink. She has a mysterious mark on the palm of her left hand – a tattoo or birthmark?
  • 3: If pierced, the box explodes outward, causing 1d6 damage to whoever fails a DEX saving throw. A piece of the box is embedded in everyone who is hit, impossible to pull out through mundane means – a blessing from a priest of the Hidden God will cause it to fall out, otherwise the person may develop a mutation…
  • 4: A snake slithers out of any hole that is made in one of the plates, no matter how small the hole is. The snake is a large python with a long running script in Elvish tattooed upon its belly, visible only under moonlight. To those who can read it, it speaks of a dire warning of an apocalypse yet to come that cuts off access to all of the Bridges, effectively destroying all magic.
  • 5: A small box with a little bow wrapped around it is inside. Inside this box is a bit of parchment and a ring. The parchment has a note written in one of the party member’s own hand writing promising that the ring will only fit the hand of the true queen, and that the party member whose hand writing matches the note must find her.
  • 6: The box is empty with nothing inside, no special markings, nothing.

The metal that the plates are made out of can be crafted into items by a master craftsman who works with only the hottest bellows one can find. It is possible to harvest 1d8 components worth of material from the box. Each one-handed weapon takes 1 component, a shield or two-handed weapon 2 components, and armor 3 components.

Weapons or armor made with the plates provide a reroll on DEX saves when utilized to do so. They give a glimpse into a possible future to the user, allowing them make a different move. This ability has a Ud4 number of uses per day.

DESIGNER NOTES

I love the freedom of designing for OSR games.

This springs from previously putting a “sealed iron box” into my ancient battlefield generator table of things that could be found on such a site. Naturally I began thinking well, what is in the box? I also watched Tenet recently for my birthday (I don’t care haters, I loved it), and so it got my brain really going into timey-wimey time travel stuff.

I went with a “Shroedinger’s Side Quest” kind of approach with it, and I particularly love the fact that what’s inside changes on a daily basis until it’s opened up.

But then I was also thinking, what about the box itself? Might as well make something neat out of it too, and I ended up making an incredibly simple crafting system, cause why not?

Ideally the box is found somewhere incredibly unexpected. The more surprising the place it’s found in, the more fun you can have with it as a GM, in my opinion. 

One final note, the seams have been welded shut – so if you’re looking for a way to describe it, look at some pictures of really great welds – that’s what I’m going for. No, I don’t know how whoever made the box got a hold of a welder, but make sure you never say it’s a weld – just describe it and let the players wonder for themselves. Less is more!

CARTOGRAPHY FOR BEGINNERS

The game was complete with empty glasses of original pirate peanut butter whiskey…

This post will not be an attempt to teach you anything, to be honest. The title is a lie. If you thought it wasn’t going to be a lie, you have, in fact, failed your Wisdom check.

This past weekend I got a chance to finally play Treasure Island with my fiancé and quarantine pod members. This Shut Up & Sit Down review of the game is what sold me on it almost a year ago now, and I’ve been hunting for the best chance to experience it. You see, as a board gamer, tabletop RPG gamer, and really all around gamer, I seek out that “experience” play that only certain games can provide. It’s why Dread is my favorite RPG – every session I’ve ever run or played has elicited a very specific experience that only it can give me.

As we were playing, my genius sister was like, “why don’t you take a picture of this for your BLOG?” At first I wasn’t sure why, but as we continued to play, them seeking out my treasure and me hopelessly clinging to my perfect treasure-hiding talents, a picture began to form quite literally in front of all of us of our experience with the game. No doubt, that’s the intent behind the game, but as you can see our map from playing tells a story even with you never having seen a single moment of our gameplay.

Map Close Up

One quick note on the game – the black marker was anything I did as Long John Silver – they were clues that may – or maybe not – were accurate as to where I hid my treasure. The other colors, a little difficult to make out, were for each separate player/character. In this way, you can see exactly where they were searching on the island.

This isn’t a review of Treasure Island, although it was fun, and I think it will be much, much better on future play throughs. It’s not a retelling either of our experience playing the game.

This is a full-on endorsement to use maps to your full advantage in your games. OSR or not, maps help players and GM alike share a common history of the events of a game, and what else is a story if not a retelling of history – of something happening?

More so though, Treasure Island shows the power of letting your players mark maps themselves. It’s not a game with a GM, but it is asymmetrical, and as the odd-one-out Long John Silver, it certainly felt like being the GM at times, and it was great. I handed our secrets like they were cursed gold doubloons, and every time I could sow doubt or suspicion, I certainly did. I left it up to the pirates to decide whether or not I could be trusted.

But as the players drew their paths and search circles on the map, a story began to unfold with very little detail from me. They trotted all over the island looking for my treasure, and in the end one of the other players did find the gold! But you know what? That wasn’t the best part for any of us – even the winner. The best parts were those moments where they discovered and uncovered the secrets I had laid out before them as a result of the work they put into the map themselves.

Give your players the tools to do the work for themselves, and they’ll give you back gold many times over. Now I just gotta figure out the easiest way to do this kind of map in Roll20…